Konstantin Elmpasidou left the Greek crisis to study for her masters degree at Chalmers. Today she is chairperson of Circ, a voluntary organisation that welcomes and guides students newly arrived from all parts of the world.
About 1000 students from some 70 different countries arrive to study at Chalmers each year. Coming here from such places China, Iraq or Venezuela in a foreign country with its traditions, values and norms is not always easy.
‘I arrived in Sweden from Thessaloniki in August last year to study my master’s program in complex adaptive systems at Chalmers. I soon found myself in contact with Circ (Chalmers International Reception Committee) and quickly realised how valuable it is to be part of this large international family,’ said Konstantina Elmpasidou.
She says it was quite an easy decision to leave Greece. The economic crisis and high level of unemployment generated resignation and frustration amongst many young people.
‘Although I was well educated I couldn’t find a job. And those who had were obliged to accept such low salaries it was difficult to survive. There was no future for me in Greece,’ said Konstantina Elmpasidou.
She left her parents and two older sisters in Thessaloniki. They meet daily on Skype and last summer she returned for a holiday.
‘Perhaps I’m adjusting to the Swedish climate. I found the heat in Greece a little difficult.’
Exciting master’s program
There are several reasons why she chose Chalmers. Two are education is in English and there are no fees. And as she points out: ‘This is a prestigious university providing opportunities to meets students from the whole world.’ According to the reputable ranking list, QS World University Rankings, Chalmers has climbed from place 175 to 132 and is ranked number four among Swedish universities.
‘I have a bachelor’s in mathematics and Chalmers offered an exciting master’s program that fits in well with my interests and plans for the future.’
Konstantina Elmpasidou has been fully booked for several weeks. She mixes fulltime studying with an ambitious program in Circ. When we meet preparations and activities are running at full speed.
Tram rides and IKEA
The organisation offers newly arrived students with sponsorship, various activities and meetings.
This autumn they can enjoy a busy program covering a round tour of Chalmers and how Swedish society works in terms of legislation and the authorities. New arrivals are invited to take a tour of Göteborg, courtesy of the city trams.
‘To help the new students orientate themselves with the various parts of the city we set them questions so they can become familiar with both the city centre and the outlying areas.
We have also organised a trip to IKEA to help students find furniture for their student rooms,’ said Konstantina Elmpasidou.
An unfounded notion
There are a good many people, she says, who have heard that Swedes can be cold and introverted. Although this notion tends to circulate quite widely, it is quite unfounded. ‘We take in students from countries where they have been exposed to racism and frozen out and most are very surprised over the tolerance and acceptance they find in Göteborg, she said. ‘But of course, we do have students who have met with xenophobia. And we have students who can’t quite get to grips with the liberal position held by Swedish women. However, by means of open talks and meetings we are attempting to increase understanding in these areas.’
Planned activities include volleyball and kubb (sometimes called Viking Chess) in Slottsskogen park, dinners featuring both Swedish and other traditional national fair, weekend trips including saunas and swimming in lakes and at sometime in the future the ESN Sea Battle, that attracts more than 2000 students on a voyage between Stockholm and Tallin.
‘Circ is designed to make students feel they belong and are part of a large community. I’ve benefitted so much from all the meetings and experiences that I feel it’s well worth the work I put in,’ said Konstantina Elmpasidou.
FACTS ABOUT CIRC
Each year the Chalmers International Reception Committee welcomes some 1000 newly arrived students at Chalmers. Circ is run by a board of seven to ten students who volunteer to work on behalf of foreign students and exchange students, ensure they fit in with student life easily and smoothly and feel that they belong in this large community. Apart from various activities, Circ offers mentorship and practical information and advice.
Circ works closely with the Chalmers Student Union, the University of Gothenburg and the Erasmus Student Network.
For more information please visit: www.circ.chalmers.se
Text: Eva Nordin
Photo: Aneesh Venkat